I signed up for my first yoga class on a whim, thinking that it would be fun. However, when I got to the first session, I realized that I was in way over my head. The poses were for beginners, but they were incredibly hard for me. Why were these simple positions so difficult? Because I was a victim of eight years of competitive soccer and did not previously believe that stretching was important. My muscles were wound tight like rubber bands, and trying to force them into positions other than the usual caused them to scream “Devyn! What are you doing?” Unfortunately, the only way they could communicate this feeling to me was by sending hot waves of pain up and down my legs.
Each Wednesday morning I stepped into the yoga room, complete with a dirty floor and mats that smelled of wet sheep, the poses became a tiny bit easier for me. I could slide into warrior or downward dog without fearing permanent damage to my quads, calves, hamstrings, or ankles. The effects of all that soccer and running on my muscles were hard to erase, but I chiseled away at the tightness a little bit during every class. I had heard from numerous coaches and trainers over the years that keeping muscles flexible would improve performance in sports and reduce the risk of injury. Unexpectedly, yoga made me realize that keeping a flexible mind would be an even greater benefit than flexible muscles.
When I was younger, I refused to back down in arguments, even when I was up against someone who I knew was older and smarter. Once, I even insisted to my older brother that a giant bomb had killed the dinosaurs. I was set in my ways and stubbornly held to my opinions, refusing to change them for anyone. By the same token, my muscles, I concluded, were too deeply set in their ways. Had I stretched more before taking the yoga class, or varied my exercise routine more, the poses would not have caused me so much pain. I would have been able to deal with the unfamiliar positions a lot more easily.
Similarly, a flexible mind also allows you to deal with new circumstances more easily. To me, a flexible mind is one that is able to draw ideas from all sources and make use of the new information. This is much more valuable and interesting than a mind that holds opinions like a bank vault; refusing to let old ideas go or allow new ones inside. Now, I know that you can’t exactly physically stretch your mind with yoga poses as you can your muscles. But contemplating some weird philosopher’s work, or simply looking at an issue from a different angle than usual is the mental equivalent of tree or frog pose. Flexibility is an extremely important characteristic to hold dear, not only physically, but mentally too.
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